Fourth-quarter encouragement for discouraged fundraisers

From what I see and hear out there, fundraisers, and most especially those raising funds for small to mid-size nonprofits, are struggling to keep their chins up as we head into the critical fourth quarter of the year. What with the daily deluge of doom and gloom swirling around the 2016 presidential campaign, members of my usually upbeat tribe are losing their grip on optimism.


From sea to shining sea, abundance thinking has lost ground to the scarcity mindset – including within organizations with a faith base.

And that, my friends, is both unfortunate and just plain wrong. There’s evidence galore from research and life that makes the case for abundance, generosity, and guts – if only fundraisers and other organizational leaders would look.

However, with noses to the proverbial grindstone, few fundraisers, nonprofit CEOs, or board members have time for tracking down good news to counter the bad. But not to worry. I’ve done a bit of the work for you by gathering links to helpful resources and encouraging studies suggested by folks in the know. I invite you to check out the following and be encouraged.


A highlight a day from NonProfit Pro’s abridged version of the Giving USA 2016 report helps keep the gloomies away — that’s my hope for you. The bulleted factoids included in the NonProfit Pro article paint a picture of a verdant philanthropic landscape, with almost all segments of the nonprofit sector benefiting from recent record giving. For the full Giving USA 2016 report, click here.

As an article posted to The Huffington Post blog tells it, there’s truth to the old adage about people voting with their pocketbooks, at least if those people live in the United States. “When it comes to performing their civic duty, Americans are more inclined to give to charity than cast their ballots at the polls,” states Patrick Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He continues:

Voting is an important role in our democratic system, but there are lots of gaps between what any one politician promises and what he or she can deliver. . . Philanthropy transcends time, borders, and politics. Philanthropy is a core American value and will remain one regardless of political or business cycles.

(Gen) X marks the next spot for donor growth. Sandwiched between Boomers and Millennials, Gen Xers haven’t gotten much attention from fundraisers. Until now, that is. As the front wave of this mostly ignored cohort turns 50, development staffers are scrambling to make connections. If that’s you, check out the 4-step plan from the Giving Institute for engaging the 40 – and 50-somethings in your prospect pool.

  • Shed the “old rules” of demanding fealty and Board membership as a requirement of leadership. Focus instead on creating opportunities for a transformative philanthropic and organizational experience.

  • Show the nexus between giving to make something happen, leadership to inspire others, and recognition for personal satisfaction.

  • Make business planning a part of what your nonprofit does, and don’t see it as a burden, but a dynamic framework for success.

  • Demonstrate R.O.I., but do it in the context of guiding the donor toward a passionate act. If it is merely a transaction, then nobody wins. The donor will ultimately lose interest and he or she will surely move on to the next opportunity.

And now the part about guts. In a blog titled “Responding to the Preemptive Gift,” consultant Jason McNeal challenges fundraisers to push back when a donor heads off an ask with a below capacity gift. He acknowledges that it can feel “unseemly to continue pursuing an additional gift when one has just been offered.” But if your goal is to develop a “purposeful donor relationship,” get over your reluctance.

“If we only accept what is given, we aren’t doing development and advancement work, we are simply fund raising,” McNeal tells us.

I’ve not made up my mind how McNeal’s counsel fits with my commitment to fundraising as ministry, but his article is thought-provoking to say the least. After chewing on his words for a bit, let me know how the advise tastes to you.



  1. Rebekah, I confess I bristle a little at the last piece of advice. If we are to be donor-centric, which I think we must be if we view fundraising as ministry, then this feels inauthentic. Donors have various priorities and situations that we (as fundraisers) may or may not be aware of. Pushing back against the size of a gift feels wrong to me, although I am not opposed to asking individuals for “stretch” gifts. I have actually stopped giving (and do not plan on resuming) to an organization because they would not graciously accept the fact that I was unwilling to give at the time of their phone call (due to a stretch gift I had just made to World Vision and changing financial circumstances in my house). It’s an interesting conversation, and the right approach likely depends on the situation, the organization, the fundraiser, and the donor.

  2. I SO appreciate receiving your emails! Thank you for encouragement and challenges! Bless you!

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